One can imagine that Mark was asked one day, “How did it all begin?” And they were not referring to the creation of the world; after all, they had that answer in their Scriptures. ‘It’ referred to the following of Jesus. Mark has his version next week. Somehow we get John’s version to kickstart year B.
Things begin in Scripture by ‘calls’. So we have Hebrew Bible examples in Samuel this week and Jonah next week. We might try to remind ourselves of the ‘calls’ in Scripture that we can remember. Some, like Abraham, come readily to mind; others we may have to dig a little deeper into the memory bank.
But take time and dig.
On most occasions the call is accompanied by a dialogue: “How can his happen since I am a virgin?” said Mary or “Where do you live?” from the disciples (of John) referring to where do you teach? After all they called him ‘Rabbi’ which means Teacher.
Sometimes the call was not understood or appreciated initially. Samuel today is a case in point.
Further, the response to the call often has a twist in the tail. “We have found the Messiah”… but as it turned out, not the true Messiah. The Messiah was only fully revealed in his Passion, Death and Resurrection. He was not fulfilling the pent-up hope of a downtrodden community that wanted revenge on his enemies. Pope Francis reminded the people in Myanmar, so oppressed and so abused for the past 60 years, that our way was not “revenge, but reconciliation”, brave words in the first face to face encounter of the perceived ‘boss’ and his ‘subjects’ in the history of the world. By his actions he demonstrated that he was not ‘a boss’ and they were not ‘his subjects’.
So, calls can be both dangerous and life giving.
A Sandhurst priest now retired and living in Canberra, John Ryan, has written a little book titled ‘A Priesthood Imprisoned’. Much of the text, to my mind, is recounting the same journey as the Gospel today. A previous formation, mine included, was in a sense like that of the two disciples “We have found the Messiah”. However the journey is really about the Messiah capturing us on his terms. Some like St Paul get to that point in a flash…others, like most of us, get there by degrees: daily prayer, acts of charity, worship with the community and a commitment to use our bodies for the glory of God. And, in a sense, that is what ordinary time is about.
P.S. A little note. I am helping out during January in the parish of Kerang/Cohuna/Pyramid Hill, a round trip of approx. 350 kms. I said my first Christmas January Mass there in 1962 /63. It causes me to ponder. Last Saturday, it was 46 degrees at 6.10pm in Pyramid Hill and 40 degrees at 8.30pm in Kerang.